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Silver and Gold: What’s New and What’s Returning to the 2016 Train Display

Silver and Gold: What’s New and What’s Returning to the 2016 Train Display

Excited kids pointing at the A Brandywine Christmas train display in Chadds Ford, PA
December 31, 2016

At the Brandywine River Museum of Art, A Brandywine Christmas is a time to celebrate the traditions that make the holidays so special. One of our favorite traditions is watching our Brandywine River Museum of Art Railroad crew bring the exciting and intricate train display to life each year – filled with surprises and tiny treasures that hold a special meaning for our guests to discover. This year we had a chance to sit down with the train crew for a behind-the-scenes glance at what’s new in 2016 and the beautiful backstory for some of the attractions that have been visitor favorites over the years.

Brand New in 2016

According to Paul Hoerner who has worked on the train display for decades, “New features on the display include an animated playground and a horse-drawn coach modeled on one owned and operated by one of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art’s founders George A. “Frolic” Weymouth (1936-2016).

A tribute to one of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art's founders, George A. "Frolic" Weymouth - a horse drawn carriage in our holiday train display
A tribute to one of the Brandywine Conservancy Museum of Art's founders, George A. "Frolic" Weymouth

A model of the blue pyramid- shaped observationhouse by artist-in-residence Dylan Gauthier located near the Museum’s riverside also appear for the first time this year. We added train sets with upgraded sound and control systems that provided a more impressive and immersive show for our guests. As always, during the run of the show, more details are added and additional lighting helps bring the layout to life. Headlights and tail lights for the cars in the village have begun to appear and guests already mention how it brings you into the scene.”

New animated playground in our A Brandywine Christmas for 2016's holiday train display
Nicky Wyeth & Andrew Wyeth waving from his studio door in our A Brandywine Christmas train display
A UFO new to our A Brandywine Christmas train display for 2016

We hear there are also a few more celestial additions to the display including a large illuminated moon that Santa and his reindeer cross in their travels as well as a mysterious UFO that hovers quietly enough that you might miss it if you’re not looking closely. Last but not least, near where Nicky Wyeth is flying a model airplane Andrew Wyeth stands at the door of his studio waving to visitors.

Finally, for any Harry Potter fans who have ever wanted to leave the muggle world behind, the Hogwarts Express, centrally located in the display, will whisk you away for a good game of Quidditch and some great memories of the beloved books.

Hogwarts Express train, a new addition to A Brandywine Christmas for 2016
Hogwarts Express train, a new addition to A Brandywine Christmas for 2016

The Story Behind Those Little Details Visitors Love

Each year as our clever and creative train crew adds tiny new details for our train-lovers to enjoy, the team also takes great care in ensure visitor favorites, like Jane’s Christmas Tree Farm, return. Some of these classic details also hold great meaning for the team, with beautiful backstories and even nods to family members. Says Paul “Each of us put our own personal stamps on the layout that need no placards or recognition. They just connect us to this monumental attraction that is the Brandywine Railroad. There are several scenes that have deep personal meaning for me.

Jane's Christmas Tree Farm was named after my Mother, Jane Glenn Taylor. She delighted in coming each year to see the little tree farm that bore her name, and I loved telling her how many times a day people would point out ‘Jane's’. When she passed away in 2001, I added a new scene by the church in the village. A cemetery that has an eternal flame flickering in front of one of the tombstones that says Taylor.

Jane's Christmas Tree Farm, a classic part of our A Brandywine Christmas train display
Jane's Christmas Tree Farm, a classic part of our A Brandywine Christmas train display

Onto the Medieval Festival, it began as a way to pay homage to the artists and storytellers of the Brandywine while representing the other passion of mine that takes up much of the rest of the year, performing and jousting at Renaissance Faires. While buildings and attractions bear names like Men of Iron Tilt Yard, Black Arrow Archery, and the White Company Armory, one of the jousting knights wears my old blue and silver colors. I also incorporated famous Wyeth paintings Snow Hill, by Andrew Wyeth, and the Treasure Island Endpapers, by his father N. C., into the scene. “

Train team member Paul Hoerner when he worked with full-sized trains
Train crew member Paul Hoerner in full jousting regalia

Adds Dave Jensen, who is also a longtime train veteran “One of the things that is most significant to me on the layout is the lighthouse. My wife is a professional cake decorator and several years ago she entered a wedding cake decorating contest in Atlantic City, which she won. The cake was a five foot tall lighthouse modeled after the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. I built a lighthouse for the train display for the layout based on that award-winning cake.

Dave Jensen hard at work assembling this year’s train display.
Dave Jensen hard at work assembling this year’s train display.

Another item that hold special meaning on the layout is a model I built of the real, full-sized steam locomotive #98 I worked on and when I was an Engineer at the Wilmington & Western Railroad in Delaware.”

Speaking of Favorites

Speaking of favorites, we asked the crew what they liked best about working on the Brandywine River Museum of Art Railroad. According to John Hyatt, the newest member of the crew who just joined this year: “Subconsciously, the children are aware they are inside a museum, but they are also making a connection to the art in the rest of the museum through the art of the trains. It opens a door for so many children to learn, understand, and appreciate art. I happen to be very appreciative for experiencing this journey at the Brandywine River Museum throughout my youth and it is the reason I chose art as a career path.

I will add, this has been such a surreal experience to be a part of the Brandywine family. I have enjoyed being on the other side of the visitor experience as a staff member. It is such a joy to interact with many different visitors who greatly appreciate this holiday display with much sentimentality.”

Paul added: “When you look at the hours of hard work it takes to put the exhibit together each year, and the endless hours of operation during the run, you might be tempted to call us insane, but if you saw the expressions on the faces of the countless children that come through our doors every year, you'd instantly know that it's all worth it. I love that we have become a family tradition for tens of thousands of visitors that come every year to see the trains at the Museum. That we bring a smile to the face of young and old alike as one generation passes on the joy of watching toy trains to the next. Grandfathers kneel down next to grandchildren and begin making "choo-choo" noises and giggling right along with the exuberant kids. I LOVE that I am privileged enough to be part of this timeless tradition.”

Dave kept it short and sweet, “My favorite part are the happy faces I make happen in the Train Room.”

A Brandywine Christmas, which includes the magical train display, beautiful antique dolls, Critter trees on three floors and one-of-a-kind gifts in our Museum Shop runs now through January 8. Don’t miss our Terrific Trains Family Program January 7 where we’ll say goodbye to the trains for the season!